Updated: Mar 14
by Holly Manno
Ally stirs against the pillow and opens her eyes with a start. The alarm clock on the bedside table shows the time. It’s 6:35 AM. Her expression is anguished as she sits. A spike of adrenalin and dread greet her. She inhales and tosses the pink and mint striped blankets away. After retrieving her rose-gold glasses from the table, she slides them on then collects her cell. She taps the message icon and confirms the plan.
ALLY: We’re still on for today, right?
JAKE: Are you sure about this?
ALLY: I am.
JAKE: Then yes, I’ll help you.
ALLY: I’ll see you in an hour.
With that settled, she goes to the bathroom and brushes her teeth, studying herself critically in the mirror. Her hair is tangled after a sleepless night and there are circles under her eyes. She takes a band from the drawer and winds her long auburn mane into a twisted bun at the top of her head. Her expression becomes determined as she talks to herself. You can do it. You’re going to save their marriage and get that loser out of the way.
She removes her glasses, tosses her nightshirt, and steps into the shower. As the water runs over her and she lets her guard down, she is slapped by the image of her mom and that weird man kissing. She shakes her head in disgust and turns off the tap.
Wrapped in a towel, she uses her hand to clear a circle of mirror, squinting as she applies a liberal amount of mascara to her eyes and a swipe of brick red lipstick to her mouth. She pulls a few tendrils from the bun to frame her face but otherwise leaves her hair up. She removes her glasses from the counter and puts them on. So far her daily routine has been unremarkable.
Ally returns to her bedroom and opens the closet door. The backside of it is strewn with scarves and belts that are hanging from hooks. She rifles through the rack and pulls out a dark shirt and pants and a well-worn emerald green shawl. She takes underclothes from a dresser drawer, on top of which is a family photo of her parents and her. It was taken at Disneyland on her 5th birthday. She tosses the clothes on her bed and runs her fingers along the picture frame. A lone tear runs down her cheek which she quickly brushes away. She turns on her heel and begins to dress.
She takes the last few steps toward the first-floor landing as her mother, Megan calls out. “Good morning, Sunshine. You’re a little late today.”
Ally enters the kitchen and replies normally, “Morning, Mom. Yeah, I better get going.”
“Here,” Megan hands her yogurt and a spoon.
Ally replies softly, “Thanks, Mom. I love you.”
Megan smiles brightly. “I love you too, honey. Have a good day at school.”
Ally leaves the house and walks toward the agreed-upon meeting spot. She arrives quickly and climbs into Jake’s silver Chevy truck.
“Hey,” he says.
“Hey, yourself,” she replies.
After a silence he ventures, “Look, Ally, I know you’re worried because your Mom is…um, cheating, but are you sure you want to go through with this?”
Her brows knit, “We’ve been over this, I’m sure.”
Jake reaches across her lap. His blue eyes meet her green ones as he opens the glove compartment and removes a handgun. He handles it expertly as he opens the chamber and verifies there are no bullets then hands it to Ally.
Her expression is awed and her hands clumsy as she fumbles to take it.
A voice screeches through the window, “Ally, is that you?”
“Oh no!” Ally whispers, “It’s our neighbor Ilene.”
Jake hisses. “Put it in your bag.”
Ally hurries the gun into her purse and nervously unrolls the car window.
Ilene scolds, “What are you doing parked over here? Aren’t you going to be late for school?” Her discerning dark eyes dart from Ally to Jake.
Ally is quick to answer. “Jake saw me walking and pulled over to give me a ride. We should be right on time.”
Jake puts the care into drive and Ilene backs up. “Drive safe,” she scolds. You’re carrying precious cargo.”
“Oh, yes. I will.” Jake calls as they pull away.
“Crap,” Ally exhales.
Jake chuckles, “That was exciting.”
She socks him on the arm and commands, “Pull over up here.”
Ally is practically panting as she turns to stare out the back window. “It won’t be long.” As she says it, her mother’s beige SUV inches up the street. “That’s her. Get ready.”
Jake’s hands grip the steering wheel and they both crouch down in their seats as Megan’s vehicle passes.
“Follow my Mom.
He pulls from the curb and drives steadily a half of a block behind Megan’s SUV. They follow her across town until they arrive in front of a mixed-use building. The lower floors are retail and the higher floors condominiums. Megan pulls into a visitor spot and parks. Jake veers to the right and parks where they can see the entry. They watch Megan smooth her black skirt and scurry into the building.
They wait three hours for Megan to leave. When she does, a tall, fit, man walks closely beside her. Their hips bump. Megan’s hair is loose now, though it was up when she arrived. The man looks longingly into her eyes. They embrace and he holds the car door for her. His expression is sly as he watches her get in. He steals a kiss and quickly slams the car door as Megan glances around before driving away.
Jake places his hand on Ally’s knee, a gesture of support. She is holding her breath. They watch the man get into a black BMW. The vanity plate reads DRNWON.
Jake uses his cell phone to snap a picture. “Got it,” he exclaims. “I’ll ask my cousin to run the plates so we can find out his name and what unit he lives in.”
Ally says, “Text me when you have the info. I’ll call you if I need anything.”
Jake’s expression is concerned. “You could just tell your dad, Ally.”
She shakes her head, “That would crush him. No, I’m going to take care of this myself. Thanks for your help.” She pulls the door handle and exits the vehicle.
Jake watches as she crosses the lot and enters the building. He appears unsure as he turns the ignition over and eases out of the spot.
A virile-looking man in his 40’s steps into an elevator from the 30th-floor landing. The walls and floors of the cab are white. A synthetic remix of a Celine Dion song drones in the background. The man is alone until a red-headed tween wearing glasses rushes through the closing doors at the last chance.
Her breath is hitched. Her hands grip the edges of her emerald shawl. The man doesn’t acknowledge her. The doors close. The music and her breathing are the only sounds until…
She ventures, “You’re Darrin, right?”
He seems confused, “Do I know you?”
“I’m Ally. Megan’s daughter”.
He swallows but remains silent.
“Yeah, that’s right,” she taunts. “Don’t say a word. What can you say, anyway?”
He looks down.
“You need to stop seeing her.”
He bursts, “Does your mom know you’re here?”
She replies snottily, “Of course. She dropped me off.”
He blinks stopping short of an eye roll. “You should talk to your mother.”
I’m talking to you Darrin and I’m telling you to leave her alone. She’s married and you’re a germ.”
“I’m sorry you’re upset. How did you find out?”
“I know my mom, that’s how. And I saw your texts and pictures. Gross by the way and not impressive.”
His tone is neutral. “Again, I’m sorry you’re upset.”
“Then stop upsetting me! Leave my mom alone.”
He clenches his jaw. “That’s not going to happen.”
“Then I’ll tell my dad.”
“Just leave her alone you jerk. What kind of guy goes after a married person anyway?”
“We didn’t plan it.”
“Listen, Ally. you’re just a kid so there’s a lot you can’t understand.”
“Don’t talk down to me–especially when you’re the one acting like a kid.”
“What can I say? Your mom is amazing. I want to be with her.”
The girl’s expression cools as she slides her right hand into her purse. The sound of a gun’s trigger cocking fills the space. The bag bulges in Darrin’s direction. “You don’t get it. This isn’t a request.”
The elevator dings signifying their stop at the lobby. As the doors open, Darrin remains glued to the wall.
Ally steps forward but glances over her shoulder. “I hope we have an understanding, Darrin. Don’t contact her–ever again.”